By Clarissa Cruz
Updated February 28, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

With NYC suffering a bad case of frostbite, the sartorial challenge at Mercedes-Benz Fall Fashion Week was staying warm and stylish. Under bulky coats, starry spectators remained chic: Hilary Swank busted out in Narciso Rodriguez, and regular Joe Evan Marriott looked like, well, a million bucks at Tommy Hilfiger. And fur — fox or faux — was the cover-up of choice. (For once, no one seemed to fear PETA’s wrath.) ”I’ve always liked the layered look….It’s like I’m wearing three outfits in one,” says 25th Hour’s Rosario Dawson, who bundled up in a dress, tights, and a fur wrap at Jill Stuart. ”I just like being warm.” Here are some of the other trends that heated up the place.

GET SHORTY While audiences shivered, the runways were clogged with models in skirts that barely covered their assets. Microminis dominated at Michael Kors (cashmere and suede), Marc Jacobs (color-blocked mod dresses), and Jill Stuart (naughty-schoolgirl frocks). But the small wonders left some cold. ”The mini is not for me. It scares the s — -out of me,” says All My Children star Finola Hughes.

PRETTY IN PLEATS Break out your irons. Pleats — in a shiny, happy, car-washy confection (at Marc Jacobs), a black-tie version (at Carmen Marc Valvo), or a kicky mini (DKNY) — were the detail of choice.

GIRLY SHOW While Sean John models strutted in racy leather panties (natch), the looks at other shows were more demure. Ladylike pencil skirts and ribbon belts were spotted at Carolina Herrera; bows accented the ensembles at Bill Blass; and florals were paired with velvet at Chaiken. The highlight of the week for Lorraine Bracco was Douglas Hannant, who trotted out silhouette-enhancing styles. ”He designs clothes for a woman. I’m not a twig. I’ve got a little more T&A action going.”